Jason Goldie said he copes with opening a new business during a pandemic by thinking about the things he can control and what is most important.
On the top of the important list is having healthy loved ones. And he said he is willing to work at his new venture and keep it going with an eye toward better days ahead.
Goldie left California with his young family to relocate to central Minnesota and when he looked at business opportunities, he knew he wanted to be part of the downtown Brainerd business community.
He recently opened Big Jay’s — a pizza restaurant and arcade at 217 S. Seventh St. No. 15 in Brainerd across from The Gallery. The business name comes from his nickname as he said everyone calls him Jay.
Goldie makes all the pizzas from scratch. He describes the pizza as similar to a New York style but more robust and more crunch. The most popular to date is the Dill pizza with a housemade dill sauce, cheese, pickles and bacon.
Customers can create their own pizza or get one of the signature flavors from the traditional pepperoni to a Diablo with white sauce, cheese, hot cheeto and hot sauce. Other options include spicy Italian, veggie, BBQ chicken, the Kahuna (pepperoni, jalapeno, bacon and pineapple), Hawaiian, meat supreme and chicken bacon. Gluten free crust is also available in the 10 inch pizza. Prices range from $10 to $16 for the pizzas.
Other menu items include a chicken salad and a pizza salad, breadsticks and hot wings.
Currently, customers can order for pickup and takeout and delivery via DoorDash.
Arcade in waiting
Rows of arcade games of all kinds and for all levels of players are part of the new business but are on hold until restrictions are lifted and businesses can once again have groups of people indoors.
Gone are the physical roll or strips of tickets. The whole arcade works off a card reader so customers buy cards and there is a prize machine where people can redeem the tickets.
"So you can come and play and then save your game card and the tickets are saved on them,” Goldie said.
The arcade features private game rooms with TVs so customers can set up groups or birthday parties, when that is once again an option following restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
“Once we can open the games, we’ll take reservations for those rooms for up to two hours,” Goldie said.
The games will be between 25 cents and 50 cents to play with a couple of machines with classic games for older patrons.
Goldie said with his own family of five — with three kids ages 1, 4 and 11 — he knows people are looking for something to do that is affordable.
Goldie, 35, grew up in California. He said it’s considered low income there now to make $120,000 a year. He said there was no way to survive on feeding a family and also having a house payment and a car payment. The beach and the weather couldn’t compete with the negatives. He said he’s still getting used to the cold and is still figuring out how he’ll plow his driveway.
His father managed an arcade and later, when Goldie was 15, his family purchased a bowling alley with arcade games. He worked there for more than 20 years fixing machinery and working in the entertainment style industry.
Now with a family of his own, he said he was looking for an opportunity and was open to learn. His wife, Mandi, is from the Brainerd area so when they were looking for a change and more affordable living than California provided, they made the decision to return to Minnesota.
This is Goldie’s first Minnesota winter. He keeps hearing that so far Mother Nature is being easy on him. But either way, he said he’ll be set because he’ll be inside cooking, making pizza and working no matter what the temperature is like outside.
For now Goldie is counting on the restaurant side of the business to sustain him until the arcade can open.
“It’s been good,” he said of early response noting people coming in have liked the pizza. “Hopefully people coming in and eating the pizza and seeing the place, they’ll be more willing to come back.